Mississippi voters will decide on Tuesday whether or not to amend their state constitution to define human embryos as persons before the law. But some pro-life groups don’t think this is a good idea.
An antiabortion movement that is gaining momentum nationwide is hoping for its first electoral victory Tuesday, when Mississippi voters will decide whether to designate a fertilized egg as a person and potentially label its destruction an act of murder.
If approved, the nation’s first “personhood” amendment could criminalize abortion and limit in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control. It also would give a jolt of energy to a national movement that views mainstream antiabortion activists as timid and complacent.
“They’ve just taken an incremental approach,” said Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi and father of 10 who initiated the state’s effort. “We’re just going to the heart of the matter, which is: Is this a person or not? God says it is, and science has confirmed it.”
“Life-at-conception” ballot initiatives in other parts of the country, including Colorado last year, have failed amid concerns about their far-reaching, and in some cases unforeseeable, implications.
But proponents of the amendment — who were inspired partly by the tea party movement — say they are more confident of victory in Mississippi, a Bible Belt state where antiabortion sentiment runs high and the laws governing the procedure are so strict that just one clinic provides abortions. . . .
Still, the measure has broad backing across party lines, with both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates voicing support for it (the Democrat, Johnny DuPree, has expressed concern about how it would affect birth control and in-vitro fertilization).
For years, the strategy favored by conservative activists nationally has been to gradually decrease access to abortion by cutting government funding and imposing restrictions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images before the procedure.
The aim has been to reduce the number of abortions while awaiting a mix of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that would be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
An energized group of activists has grown impatient with that approach. They take an uncompromising position on abortion, opposing it even in cases of rape and incest. Some also oppose making exceptions to save the life of the mother, arguing that both lives are equal and that doctors do not have the right to choose to save one over the other. Some even object to the term “fertilized egg.”
“It’s an embryo,” said Walter Hoye, a California pastor and president of the Issues 4 Life Foundation. “Calling it a fertilized egg is dehumanizing.”Personhood efforts are underway in more than a dozen states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Ohio. The movement has grown recently with the help of passionate young antiabortion advocates and more seasoned activists who have grown disenchanted with the pace of change.
Do you think this is a good tactic for the pro-life movement?